1. Who should be the first player off the board?
Finally, a position worth a discussion! Some would select David Wright for his ability to go 30/30, while others would pick Alex Rodriguez for his history of 40-50 homer seasons. Both are legitimate choices, and either could possibly be the first pick in drafts.
However, in a close race it has to be Rodriguez. Forget all the heat he takes in New York for his inability to perform in the clutch, and the fact that he is called a "compiler" for racking up statistics when it “doesn’t matter.” In fantasy baseball it doesn’t matter when he hits home runs, it just matters that he does.
A-Rod has consistently hit over .300 and been among the major league leaders in home runs for a number of years. This is an MVP candidate every single season. You can expect him to hit around .310 with 45-50 homers and drive in between 125-150 RBI with 15-25 stolen bases to boot.
David Wright is definitely also a candidate here, but he falls just short of A-Rod. Wright can hit for a slightly higher average but will fall short on the power numbers. He is still a great player and has stolen 30 bases in a season as well. But the first 3B has to be Rodriguez.
2. What will be the encore for Evan Longoria?
What more can you possibly hope for with Evan Longoria? Take a look at his statistics, and you are blown away for a rookie. He hit .272 with 27 homers, 85 RBI, and seven steals. That all sounds good, but when you consider that he was in the minors for the first three weeks of the season, and missed a month with a fractured wrist, it makes the numbers that much more impressive.
He hit for a comparable average and good power throughout the minors so these numbers are no fluke folks. There is no reason to expect Longoria to hit a sophomore slump, or for these numbers to take a step back. If you want to draft Longoria, don’t wait long. Chances are he will be gone in the first two rounds, and there is no way he makes it through three rounds. You can safely expect him to hit .280, with 33 HRs, 106 RBI, and 16 SBs.
3. Can Chipper Jones ever stay healthy?
In a short answer, no. Or I guess it would be more accurate to say it is unlikely, because anything is possible. However, it has been five years since Chipper Jones even played 140 games in a season. As he gets closer to 40-years old (he will turn 37 in April), the nagging injuries pile up more and the longer they take to come back from.
Worst of all, Chipper left your team high and dry last year when you needed him most, as he only started 13 games in the month of September (and none after Sept. 19th). His owners were forced to shuffle their lineups in the most crucial time of the season. Jones did winning the batting title last year with a .364 average, so there is still some value with him. Just be sure to draft a backup plan for when Chipper will be on the DL.
His power numbers have been dropping recently. It has been four seasons since he hit 30 home runs, and, in four of the last five, he has been under 100 RBI. He can’t be considered among the elite due to his age, injuries, and declining power, but he is still among the top 10 at the position. Just don’t draft him too soon and expect another .350+ season.
4. Is 2009 finally the "Year of Alex Gordon?"
He was all the rage heading into the 2007 season, but so far, Royals’ 3B Alex Gordon hasn’t done anything but disappoint. After posting a season in the minors of .325/29/101/22, who wasn’t excited?
Like many hitters who make the transition from AA right to the major leagues, Gordon has struggled mightily. Not only has he not hit in the .300 range like expected, but his average of .260 last season was his highest so far. He also topped out at 16 home runs last season, so the power hasn’t transitioned either.
Let’s face it folks, every top prospect is not going to pan out. There are always guys who are “can’t miss” who, in fact, miss. Is Gordon one of those guys? That is the $99,000 question. However, think of this. After college, the Royals gave him just one season in the minor leagues before for rushing him to the big club, obviously before he was ready. I can understand wanting to see your crown jewel in the Major Leagues, but sometimes it is just better to wait.
Gordon will just be turning 25 in February, so it is incredibly premature to call him a bust. Many, many players have a hard time when they first come to The Show, so don’t bury Gordon based on him falling short of his projections as a rookie.
There were some positives last season. He raised his batting average 15 points from his rookie season, and he hit one more home run and nearly matched his RBI total, despite playing 17 fewer games.
The good news is you probably won’t have to take him too early in drafts, as he shouldn’t be drafted among the top ten at the position. Gordon has gone from super prospect to possible sleeper in just three seasons. He is certainly someone to keep an eye on, but he is risky. I would target him for a UTIL spot, or perhaps a bench option with hopes for more.
5. Can you expect a repeat from Aubrey Huff and Jorge Cantu?
Both guys had great but unexpected seasons in 2008. Which will do it again?
Aubrey Huff was once one of the up-and-coming young hitters for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In 2003 and 2004, he averaged 32 homers, 106 RBI, and a .304 batting average. In the three years prior to last season, his numbers just kept on dropping. He saw his homer total go from 22 down to 14, and his RBI total drop from 92 down to 66, while his average hovered in the .260s.
Somehow, Huff found the fountain of youth in 2008, as his numbers, 32 homers and 108 RBI, jumped all the way back to his Tampa Bay days. So what changed with Huff? Hard to say for sure, but more important than what changed is...can he do it again?
As I said earlier, he did have similar seasons in his past, so it isn’t totally out of the question. If I drafted Huff, I wouldn’t expect those statistics. While he still should have a good season and help you out in the power categories, look for numbers more along the lines of a .285 average with 27 homers and 89 RBI.
Another former Devil Ray, Jorge Cantu, burst on the fantasy scene in 2005 with a stellar 28 homer and 105 RBI season from second base. The whole fantasy world fell in love. The love turned to hate like so many bitter divorces after Cantu’s statistics were cut by basically one half the following year. He couldn’t stay healthy and ended up in Cincinnati briefly before heading to Florida where all careers go to die.
Something funny happened in 2008 as, instead of dying, Cantu was revitalized in Florida and had another breakout season. He set a career high with 29 homers and drove in 95 runs with a respectable .277 average, which went along with a move to 3rd base.
I have much less faith in Cantu repeating his statistics because of the rest of his career. Outside of two great years, and one nice year in the minors, Cantu rarely showed exceptional power that would suggest that he is a 30 home run hitter.
Although he moved around a lot, Cantu was more of a single digit homer guy. Granted these weren’t full seasons, but he never approached anything that gave you an indication that he could hit 30 homers.
If Cantu hit 20 balls out of the yard in 2009, I would be somewhat surprised. Look for a season of .275, 18 homers, and 78 RBI. Not bad, but certainly well short of last year.
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